I’m sorry to bother you in your home, but if I don’t get something to eat today, I’ll probably die.” The man with torn clothes says to my cousin through the recently added mesh to the gate. The mesh is a hopeless attempt to keep the neighborhood cats out.
It’s a mid- summer 2017 in Tijuana, Mexico. The night has already curved into early morning. If you tilt your ear to the night sky, you can hear the music and the laughter of the city still at play. Our very rowdy children have finally been put to bed, after a day filled with exploring, and playing, and running around.
My cousin and I are outside enjoying some adult time and here is this man, in visible distress asking for food. He apologizes again, for daring to speak to us in our home, but we already know what to do.
My cousin tells the man to sit tight, and we quickly go into grandma’s kitchen. We heat up beans, pork stew and tortillas. There always seems to be enough food to share at grandma’s house. Maybe its because its summer and there are two families spending their summer there, or maybe it is because grandma is so used to sharing her excess.
There are to-go plates, disposable forks, bottled water, and fruit available. We send the man off with a hot meal and a blessing, anything that goes through grandma’s house is automatically blessed. That’s how things work at grandma’s house. The hungry get fed, and everybody gets prayed for.
A Culture of Giving
For my grandparents, sharing a meal with someone who crosses their path is easy. Community, religion and a life of service form an intricate part of the fiber of their lives. Grandma happily tells stories of the many times she’s had a house full of people.
She laughs as she describes how one day she woke up to a house full of young men. There were so many of them that they were sleeping in the hallways, as well as the couches, the rugs, and every part of floor you can imagine.
Apparently one of my uncles had left his boarding school to visit his mom and brought “some friends” along. His friends mixed with her other children, and their friends, and whoever else was over that weekend. She was happy to have them all there. Her children no longer show up with their friends in troves, but grandma is still a very central part of the community.
Every morning the octogenarian goes to Mass, which she describes as a party happening in her heart. She connects to God on a daily basis and then delivers communion to the sick and Lord-Bound. Her life long companion drives her around all morning and keeps her company as she visits each home.
They eat breakfast together and then they have their day. Sometimes grandma sits with grandpa while he plays solitaire, sometimes he gets her ice cream. Sometimes he watches tv with her as she knits her endless rounds, there’s lots to knit when you have lots of earth angels. This last summer grandma was knitting a cardigan for the youngest of her great-grandchildren. “The youngest for now” she says happily.
I hang out with my grandma for as long as I can, listening to her stories and accepting her love. There is a certain order to the home that has been functioning for over 60 years, an order that no amount of words can help establish, a rhythm and a beat that has a soothing quality about it.
I soak it in and learn the secrets, praying and hoping to one day have a home like that of my own.